MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) – Bus driver shortages will impact routes for several districts in the Madison area for another school year. From Middleton to Sun Prairie, the lack of drivers available to schools and transportation services means staff will be “red lining” through the upcoming year, according to one district transportation employee.
“We continue to struggle to have bus drivers,” said Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District transportation manager Mike Hamstra.
Hamstra and a spokesperson for the Sun Prairie Area School District both note that each could use roughly a dozen drivers before the school year begins. But in lieu of new drivers, districts are changing routes.
“We went through a whole bell-time change and adjusted our start and end times for next school year so we can double-tier all our bus routes,” said Sun Prairie Area School District businesses service manager Rhonda Page.
Districts like Sun Prairie and Middleton-Cross Plains also ask parents to find alternative student rides if they can. Despite the measures, Hamstra says things are still dire just to get the new routes staffed.
“All of our office staff and all of our mechanics are driving mornings and afternoons and taking away from their regular job responsibilities in order to cover getting these kids to school,” said Hamstra.
The margins are razor thin for everyone. Kobussen Buses sales representative Val Zintz says other jobs and retirement continues to pull drivers, keeping them from being fully staffed. She says the transportation service dropped other contracts this fall to ensure getting buses on all of Sun Prairie’s routes.
“The need for bus drivers, it just keeps piling up,” said Zintz.
Even with increased wages, bonuses, and in-house training and certification, it is not enough to attract potential drivers or pull drivers out of retirement. Hamstra is preparing for a long school year.
“It’s a, it’s a very concerning year; we’re going to be tight all year, if not short,” said Hamstra.
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